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“We only played for a half” says Mayo manager

Sport

MAKING THEIR POINTS Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor and Stephen Rochford are pictured during the closing stages of Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Qualifier in Ennis. Pic: Sportsfile

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Mike Finnerty

ON Sunday afternoon in Salthill, RTÉ’s cameras picked out Mayo manager Stephen Rochford sitting in the stand watching the Connacht Football Final unfold with his son, Dara.
Mayo coach Donie Buckley was also present and correct.
We can’t be sure if young Dara Rochford was taking notes on either Galway or Roscommon, but it’s safe to assume that both his father and Buckley were.
After all, if Mayo beat Cork on Saturday week next in Round 4A of the All-Ireland Qualifiers they will cross swords with either the Rossies or Kerry.
And Galway could pop back up on their radar down the line too, depending on how the Tribesmen fare out against Donegal on the backdoor route.
But all that is just speculation right now; Mayo’s clash with Cork is the only fixture we can be certain of.
On Saturday evening in Ennis, less than 24 hours before making the trip to the provincial final, Rochford stood outside the Mayo dressing-room and reflected on his eighth win as a championship manager.
“When you’re coming through the Qualifiers there’s a certain amount of relief,” he admitted. “We weren’t anywhere near where we wanted to be in the first half, but thankfully we only went in at half-time being two points down.
“We were probably lucky to be only two points down, and we set ourselves a target of getting the first score [in the second half]. From there then we kicked on, got a goal early in the third quarter, and that ignited that second half performance.”
He suggested that the exertions of ‘a game and a half’ against Derry a week earlier may have been a factor in Mayo’s slow start against Clare, but added quickly ‘it was no excuse’.
Rochford lamented his team’s lack of intensity, their failure to attack the ball with pace and track Clare’s runners from deep, and some costly turnovers.
But those issues had been addressed at half-time.
“Clare played all the good football in the first half, they took the game to us, and we struggled with that for a while,” he explained.
“We needed to play at a higher pace, we needed to attack the ball, get on the frontfoot with our tackling, and I thought Kevin [McLoughlin], Aidan [O’Shea] and Diarmuid [O’Connor] put in a really big shift in that third quarter.
“That gave us a platform to drive on and I thought we controlled the second half.
“ We were a bit better with our execution today than we were last week, but we really only played there for a half,” he added. “As we continue to go on in the competition, that won’t be good enough.”
Rochford had left Pearse Stadium by the time Roscommon received the Nestor Cup on Sunday, but he may see Kevin McStay and Liam McHale again sooner rather than later.

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